Arms Control Wonk
The nuclear weapons, arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation podcast. Companion to the popular Arms Control Wonk blog (www.armscontrolwonk.com)
info_outline Waiting for the Boom 06/04/2022
Waiting for the Boom After a brief hiatus due to Jeffrey's house catching on a lil' bit of fire, the Arms Control Wonk team is back to take a look at North Korea's triple missile launch and looming possible nuclear test. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss the North Korean nuclear testing schedule, the expectations of precision that open source intelligence has generated, and what it means when half of the attendees at a nuclear conference all simultaneously leave... Support us over at !
info_outline American ASAT Controls 05/02/2022
American ASAT Controls The U.S. has unilaterally committed to not conducting destructive anti-satellite missile tests! Jeffrey and Aaron walk through what the U.S. has actually normatively committed to, what this means for potential future attempts at arms control in space, and some of the institutional hurdles the U.S. must overcome for a long-lasting commitment to space-based arms control. Support us over at !
info_outline Carrier Killer: China's Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles and Theater of Operations in the early 21st Century 04/16/2022
Carrier Killer: China's Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles and Theater of Operations in the early 21st Century and join Jeffrey to talk about their new book: The group sits down to talk through China's DF-21D and DF-26 missiles. Do they work? What do they do? What can they actually accomplish? How do navies adapt to the new threat environment? The group talks through the realities and the puffed up hype around these systems, and how they actually impact strategy and naval operations. Support us over at !
info_outline Test Three Missiles... 03/24/2022
Test Three Missiles... ...get a pod. North Korea has conducted three (and, as I'm typing this, apparently four), ICBM (or ICBM element) tests, with two labelled as "satellite" system tests. Jeffrey and Scott talk through an OSINT Oreo: Good OSINT to identify ICBM tests, BAD OSINT claiming that some agricultural fields were missile support areas, and then more good OSINT in the form of Jeffrey's talented class of missile modelers. Jeffrey also predicts a Hwasong-17 test is coming, and as this episode is being published, he is proven right. Next episode: North Korean Test Bingo Cards. Support us over at !
info_outline The Bunga Bunga Theory of Deterrence 03/15/2022
The Bunga Bunga Theory of Deterrence Should we be worried that Russia may intentionally use nuclear weapons in Ukraine? Jeffrey and Aaron discuss the role nuclear weapons, conspiracy theories, and misinformation play within conventional wars and escalation dynamics. Aaron posits the Bunga Bunga Theory of Deterrence, wherein an individual actor's rationality can be gauged by the company they keep. Support us over at !
info_outline Deterrence in Ukraine 02/24/2022
Deterrence in Ukraine Russia has invaded Ukraine, and some folks are arguing that Ukraine could've deterred Russia "if it had never given up nuclear weapons." But they never "had" nuclear weapons. Jeffrey and Aaron talk through the control of nuclear weapons in Ukraine during the Cold War, and the "return" of those weapons to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Support us over at !
info_outline Nuclear Security for Who? 02/15/2022
Nuclear Security for Who? Jasmine Owens, Lead Organizer and Policy Coordinator at the Physicians for Social Responsibility, joins Jeffrey to discuss social justice and nuclear weapons. Jasmine and Jeffrey attack the tough issues facing culture within the nuclear security field, embedded bias, and the disproportionate impact these weapons have on minority and oppressed communities. Support us over at !
info_outline Networked Nonproliferation with Michal Onderco 02/08/2022
Networked Nonproliferation with Michal Onderco Dr. Michal Onderco, Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of Public Administration and Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, joins Jeffrey to talk about his new book, Dr. Onderco and Jeffrey talk about the history of the NPT extension, interpersonal relationships in diplomacy, and the methods and study of diplomacy in nuclear treaty-making. Support us over at !
info_outline Gimme Shelter 01/25/2022
Gimme Shelter After North Korea tested its new MaRV twice, a bunch of weird news stories suddenly started breaking about U.S. responses. Flights were grounded in parts of the West Coast, there was a shelter in place order up at the missile defense site in Alaska, and it seemed like someone may have mistook the North Korean test for an ICBM launch. Jeffrey and Aaron talk about the U.S. early warning and ballistic missile defense system, pressures of decisionmaking, and what happens when missile warnings are misunderstood in high-pressure environments. Support us over at !
info_outline North Korea's MaRV 01/08/2022
North Korea's MaRV North Korea tested what appears to be a maneuverable reentry vehicle (MaRV), which could support a tactical nuclear mission and subvert ballistic missile defenses. Jeffrey and Aaron talk through the difference between a MaRV and a hypersonic glide vehicle, discuss the development of the DPRK missile industry, and walk through North Korea's tactical nuclear ambitions. Other Episodes of Interest: : When the DPRK tested what appears to be a hypersonic glide vehicle : Jeffrey visits our friends on the War on the Rocks Warcast to talk about Iran's recent space launch attempt. Support us over at !
info_outline North Korea's Small SLBM 10/27/2021
North Korea's Small SLBM North Korea seems to be taking its new, small, solid propellant missiles to the sea, after taking them to the show. Perennial friend of the pod and aficionado of all things submarine of the International Institute of Strategic Studies returns to talk to Jeffrey about what it is that the DPRK tested this time, whether it is the same missile that the DPRK showed off at its recent military expo, and what their submarine program is looking like in 2021. Previous Episodes with Joseph Dempsey: Support us over at !
info_outline A Fractional Orbital Bombardment System with a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle?? 10/19/2021
A Fractional Orbital Bombardment System with a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle?? This is a complicated one. , China tested something that sounds a whole lot like FOBS with an HGV. Something that orbited the globe and dropped a hypersonic glide vehicle against a target. Jeffrey, Aaron, and Scott try to figure out what actually was tested (HGV-FOBS? An intercontinental glider? A super-lofted ballistic missile??), talk about what it means to be a "fractional orbital bombardment system" versus a regular ballistic missile, and why the pursuit of perfect missile defenses may make us all less secure. Support us over at !
info_outline Glide or Die 10/07/2021
Glide or Die Glide or die, baby. The North Koreans, on a real cavalcade of missile debuts reminiscent of 2017, have tested what they claim to be a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Which means they are just checking off their list of goals, leaving a nuclear powered submarine, a MIRV, and a solid propellant ICBM as the main untested-but-announced capabilities.... While it isn't 100% clear that they actually tested an HGV, the team dissects what it might have been, if a DPRK HGV is realistic, and why HGVs and other missile-defense-defeating technologies fit the DPRK's national strategy perfectly. Oh, and FOBS makes an appearance, almost entirely to give Scott nightmares. Support us over at !
info_outline All Aboard the Missile Train 09/18/2021
All Aboard the Missile Train Put another pot of coffee on because it is launch week again. North Korean launched two missiles off of the back of a train this week, right as the president of South Korea watched their own tests of a submarine launched ballistic missile, stealthy air launched cruise missile, ballistic missile test, supersonic anti ship cruise missile test, large diameter solid motor test, and good lord it is a hard week to keep up. Oh right and North Korea is expanding its uranium enrichment facilities. One day we'll catch up to AUKUS. Jeffrey and Scott try to keep up and parse through everything that is happening, from why trains are a strategically sensical choice for North Korean missile basing to why the South Korean conventional SLBM makes us very, very nervous. Recent Episodes of Note: North Korea's recent long-range strategic land-attack cruise missile test: North Korea's plutonium reprocessing campaign: Support us over at !
info_outline Not Lackin' LACMs 09/15/2021
Not Lackin' LACMs The DPRK tested a cruise missile, but this time it was a big one. Like "INF Treaty" big, if that term still meant anything. The DPRK announced that it launched a 1500 km range cruise missile, after months of hints that a strategic nuclear-capable cruise missile was in the works. While it technically does not fall under the United Nations Security Council resolutions sanctioning DPRK ballistic missile and space tests, it is a huge concern, especially since it is probably meant to carry a nuclear payload one day. Jeffrey and Aaron talk about the tech, cruise missile proliferation, how the DPRK has been signaling this capability for a while, and why this is a very serious capability that needs to be addressed. And, of course, they make fun of the JLENS. Support us over at !
info_outline Boiling Fish at Yongbyon 09/09/2021
Boiling Fish at Yongbyon Looks like Yongbyon is running a little hot. The IAEA has announced that it believes the DPRK is conducting a plutonium reprocessing campaign at Yongbyon. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss why the DPRK would want to do this. What could the mystery be? Why would the DPRK reprocess plutonium? For nukes. It's for nukes. Basically like the DPRK has been saying. Support us over at !
info_outline It's Always Cloudy in Novaya Zemlya 09/03/2021
It's Always Cloudy in Novaya Zemlya Jeffrey and his team fear no cloud. Working with Capella Space to acquire cloud-piercing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, the MIIS team has been monitoring eternally-cloudy Novaya Zemlya, Russia, for evidence of Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile tests. Evidence pointed to the Burevestnik test site being revived after the previous failures, and the team started utilizing radar returns to obviate the satellite-imagery-frustrating weather that plagues Russia's northern nuclear test ranges. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss remote sensing technical education, and the value of teaching practical imagery interpretation, technical processing skills, and how to evaluate imagery at a non-technical level. Previous Episodes: Links of Note: . Support us over at !
info_outline Wasted Opportunities with the JCPOA 08/27/2021
Wasted Opportunities with the JCPOA Bad news abounds for Iranian and US returns to JCPOA compliance. Aaron and Jeffrey talk through the frustration around breakout time requirements, the timidity of the Biden administration, and the shortfalls of the wait-and-see approach. Links of Note: The Economist article on OSINT, including Arms Control Wonk and the Slack channel, which is filled with only the most brilliant and beautiful of people, whom all listeners should aspire to emulate: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/08/07/open-source-intelligence-challenges-state-monopolies-on-information Support us over at !
info_outline A SECOND SILO FIELD 08/13/2021
A SECOND SILO FIELD Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen with the Federation of American Scientists have tracked down what appears to be a near Hami, Xinjiang. Aaron, Jeffrey, and Scott gather up to discuss the rapidly increasing number of missile silos, what this means for the shell game theory, how many missiles and warheads could be in the PLARF's ICBM arsenal, and how China strategically responds to U.S. ballistic missile defenses. Links of Note: Our first episode on the first field of silos: Support us over at !
info_outline I Sing of Arms and the Man 07/28/2021
I Sing of Arms and the Man American weapons systems need better names. Tom Karako, Director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins Jeffrey to talk about just what it is that inspires soldiers: Legendary, heroic, and historical names, not descriptive acronyms and jargon. What, are ALCM and JASSM not as sexy as Hades or Pluton? Tom explains his philosophical and classical background, and the inspiration for his article in about giving U.S. weapons systems respectable names more befitting of their purpose. Support us over at !
info_outline Nuclear Silos in the Chinese Desert 06/30/2021
Nuclear Silos in the Chinese Desert Decker Eveleth and Jeffrey Lewis's team at CNS out in the deserts of China. That's the largest expansion of PRC silos in history, by far, but it isn't totally clear what is going on, and whether each of these Bouncy Castles of Death represents a new missile or if there are some decoys in the mix... Aaron and Jeffrey discuss how Decker found these silos out in the middle of the desert, whether each silo has its own missile or if this is a Shell Game with empty silos and decoys, and how this is going to impact arms control incentives in the very near future. Further Reading: Jeffrey's op-ed in Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/30/china-nuclear-weapons-silos-arms-control/ Catherine Dill's article on new test silos at Wuzhai: https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1205826/open-silos/ Decker Eveleth and Scott LaFoy's article on possible silos at Sundian: Hans Kristensen's articles on DF-41 training silos at Jilantai, which constituted the foundational discovery of DF-41 silos in open source research: Support us over at !
info_outline The Space Launch Simorgh-asbord 06/24/2021
The Space Launch Simorgh-asbord Jeffrey's team is at it again. This time, they (and Jonathan McDowell!) caught an unannounced (and failed) Iranian space launch attempt and have now caught what appears to be a second unannounced (and failed) Iranian space launch attempt. The failed launch detection was covered by We're still waiting to hear about that second one though... Jeffrey and Scott walk through Iran's textbook space launch preparations, how Jeffrey's team tracked the preparation and launch, and how one assesses that a rocket flight failed in absence of a big, obvious explosion. Support us over at ! Please note that any views expressed on the Arms Control Wonk Podcast are the views of individual hosts, and do not represent the views of hosts' respective employers.
info_outline The Relevance of the Nuclear Posture Review 06/23/2021
The Relevance of the Nuclear Posture Review Is the Nuclear Posture Review something worth doing, or a massive waste of time and political capital? Jeffrey and Aaron vote "waste." The NPR takes up a ton of time, leaves policy on autopilot during its duration, and burns a ton of bandwidth that could be used for actual reflection and policy change. But what is more valuable? No Review at all? An Integrated Deterrence Review? The team walks through the pitfalls of the NPR, propose some modest alternatives, and outline a possible alternative mission for the Missile Defense Agency.... Support us over at !
info_outline Hyperbolic Hyper Hype 05/29/2021
Hyperbolic Hyper Hype The hype is real. Maybe it's a branding thing, maybe people forget ballistic missiles are a thing, maybe nobody thinks "glider force" sounds cool. But whatever the reason, people keep calling hypersonic glide vehicles fast compared to existing missile systems. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss hypersonic weapons, what people keep getting wrong about them, and why the D5 missile is so dang cool. Support us over at !
info_outline Israeli Rocket Motor Test 05/06/2021
Israeli Rocket Motor Test On April 20, an posted a video of a large smoky cloud to his Twitter account with the comment “A mysterious explosion in northern Israel.” Jeffrey and his team tracked down the "mysterious explosion," identifying it as a solid rocket motor test for an unknown missile or space system. Aaron and Jeffrey walk through the team's methodology, how they found the site, how they identified that it was a rocket motor, and how CNS's knowledgebase of missile industrial facilities assists in rapidly disproving disinformation. https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1211676/israeli-rocket-motor-test/ Support us over at !
info_outline A Tale of Two Launches 04/01/2021
A Tale of Two Launches North Korea has been active the past few weeks, launching a set of cruise missiles (probably just coastal defense systems) and a separate set of ballistic missiles (which look like stretched KN23 short-range ballistic missiles) a few days later. But these events were received very differently by the Biden administration and analysts. Jeffrey, Aaron, and Scott discuss why these events were received so differently, what the deal is with North Korea's newest short-range ballistic missile system, and what the Biden administration may be getting itself into with its denuclearization policy. Support us over at ! Please note that any views expressed on the Arms Control Wonk Podcast are the views of individual hosts, and do not represent the views of hosts' respective employers.
info_outline Making the Easy Stuff Hard: Re-joining the JCPOA 03/11/2021
Making the Easy Stuff Hard: Re-joining the JCPOA Biden campaigned on rejoining the JCPOA, but some of that enthusiasm has dried up since he took office. Aaron and Jeffrey debate what's going on, strategies for negotiating re-joining the JCPOA, and the fallacy of letting the perfect get in the way of the good as people begin to advocate for "waiting for a better deal" again. Also, it is a good time to start listening to Season Two of The Deal, available at IranDealPodcast.com and . Support us over at !
info_outline New START and the Future of Arms Control 02/26/2021
New START and the Future of Arms Control President Biden has extended for five more years. But what are we going to do with those years? How to we actually advance stability? Aaron and Jeffrey talk about the steps necessary to secure stable, effective arms control treaties, the history of arms control, and the importance of tacking missile defenses alongside offensive systems. Support us over at !
info_outline Iran's New Space Launcher: Zoljanah 02/18/2021
Iran's New Space Launcher: Zoljanah Iran unveiled a new (mostly) solid-propellant space launcher, the Zoljanah! But it looks....different than the other space launchers. Besides having a new fuel type, the Zoljanah may not have many IRGC or military fingerprints on it, indicating that the Iranian solid-propellant programs are robust and expansive. Jeffrey and Aaron talk Iranian space programs, civilian vs. military control of research programs, and, of course, why a solid-propellant launcher makes a difference. Support us over at !
info_outline Unravelling the Israeli Ballistic Missile Program 02/05/2021
Unravelling the Israeli Ballistic Missile Program Israel maintains a technologically advanced but understudied ballistic missile arsenal. Jeffrey and Aaron dive into the French, South African, and American influences on the arsenal, how to model the Jericho missile families, and the history of the Israeli ballistic missile program. Support us over at !